March 25 2011
City of Rocks State Park
About 52 miles from our camp lies the City of Rocks State Park. We headed down Hwy 35 towards Mimbres, followed Hwy 152 for less than a mile and turned south onto Hwy 161. At this point we had already left behind mountainous terrain and the tall pine forest. The landscape flatens gradually and finally we were driving through the Chihuahuan Desert with its far stretched graslands. After about 50 miles the park road turns off to the right ending at the Visitor Center. We paid a 5 dollar day-use fee at the park entrance. The view from the top of the hill towards the State Park is truly one, I will never forget. The City of Rocks are right smack in the middle of the surrounding flat graslands. The entire park offers camping along the circle road. Even an RV-Park with electric hook-ups is available. Impressive as the entire park is also the Visitor Center which is shielded by an erected huge rock wall against the blasting winds from the South. Inside the Visitor Center we saw a video about the park, before we actually hiked in between the rocks.
The strange form of these rocks originates from a huge underground volcanic explosion of the “Kneeling Nun”, as the hill was named. The accumulated ashes were very hot and forged into a solid rock, called “Tuff”. When cooling of a slight shrinking of the rocks started small vertical cracks. These cracks eroded over time farther and farther down. Water, ice and wind contributed year after year. In the end (there is really no end to it) the rocks were standing each by itself with passages in between. The most incredible rock formations had evolved. Some high perched rocks appear to be barely hanging on , others are leaning precariously, threatening to fall over any time. There are crevices we climbed through, there are round holes on top of some big rocks giving the impression of a bath tub. Trees have grown in between spending nice shade on hot summer days.
The entire park is a fairy tale of rocks where our fantasy can run wild. Everyone can walk between the rocks or climb them. Pets are allowed but have to be leashed.
We returned via Silver City where we also replenished our food supplies. From Silver City we followed the infamous Hwy 15. After getting out of the populated areas of the outskirts of Silver City the road looes its median and narrows further. It is a constant up and down and left and right winding road, which certainly represents a challenge to a driver not being acquainted with mountain driving. Narrow switchbacks are demanding the drivers attention for meeting traffic. As for big rigs over 22-23 feet we can only warn against such attempt. Trees and bushes hanging low over the road are also dangerous for high profile vehicles, making it necessary to drive centric. Only really experienced drivers should go up (or down) this road. Also before coming to the intersection with Hwy 35 the 15 has to get down and off the mountain. A long downgrade requires to gear down.
Avoiding this road is easy. You turn off onto Hwy 152 east of Silver City then make another turn north at San Lorenzo onto Hwy 35 towards Mimbres. Hwy 35 joins Hwy 15 past Lake Roberts. From that intersection Hwy 15 is much less of a challenge even so it is still a mountain road.